Rebs return from Rice for 18 straight at home

Ole Miss plays at home until Tuesday, March 22 when the Rebels play Memphis at Autozone Park.

Story from UM athletics media relations' Rick Stupak; quotes at the bottom from Coach Mike Bianco compiled by Editor Jeff:

No. 15 (Sports Weekly/ESPN) Ole Miss (3-1) will open an 18-game homestand Tuesday afternoon when the Rebels host the Belmont Bruins (3-0). First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m., at Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field.

Ole Miss remained at No. 15 in this week's Sports Weekly/ESPN Coaches poll after opening its season with a 3-1 week. The Rebels jumped one spot to No. 15 in this week's Baseball America Top 25, while falling one spot to No. 17 in the Collegiate Baseball Top 30.

Junior left-hander Matt Maloney (0-0, 0.00 ERA) is scheduled to make his first start of the year on the mound for Ole Miss against Belmont. Maloney has two made two relief appearances, earning the save in last Friday's 5-3 win over Lamar at the Coca Cola Invitational in Houston. He has allowed no runs on two hits and no walks, while striking out six in 5.1 innings.

"Matt has pitched very well in his two relief appearances," said Ole Miss Head Coach Mike Bianco. "He did a phenomenal job against Lamar this past Friday. With the game on the line, he gave up an infield single to the first batter he faced, but then retired 10 straight batters to close out the game."

Sophomore outfielder Mark Wright leads the Rebels at the plate with a .545 average, going 6-for-11 on the young season. Wright went 6-for-10 in three games this past weekend in Houston.

Junior outfielder Brian Pettway is hitting .412 and leads the team with two home runs and six RBI. Redshirt freshman DH Jon-Jon Hancock and senior outfielder Miles Franklin are also hitting over .400, batting .444 and .429, respectively.

Belmont will bring a 3-0 record into Tuesday's contest, after opening their season with a 9-0 win over Tennessee Tech last Tuesday and a two-game sweep of Morehead State this past weekend.

The Bruins are expected to send senior LHP Cody Blackard (1-0, 0.00 ERA) to the mound against the Rebels.

Belmont is hitting .317 as a team, led by sophomore infielder Matt Reynolds' .556 average, going 5-for-9 in three games. Sophomore outfielder Kane Simmons is hitting .545, going 6-for-11. Senior DH Clay Peterson has hit one of the Bruins' two home runs and leads the team with five RBI.

The Bruin pitching staff has a team ERA of 3.21, with opponents batting .257 against them with one home run.

"Belmont will be a good test for us," Bianco said. "They swing the bats very well, hitting .317 as a team and has scored nine or 10 runs in two games this season."

Belmont finished 31-23 a year ago, going 13-17 in the Atlantic Sun Conference.

Tuesday's game will be the first meeting between the two schools.

Following Tuesday's game, the Rebels will open a three-game weekend series with Southern Illinois, starting Friday afternoon at 3 p.m.

TUESDAY'S PROBABLE PITCHING MATCH-UP BEL - Cody Blackard (Sr., LHP, 1-0, 0.00 ERA) UM - Matt Maloney (Jr., LHP, 0-0, 0.00 ERA)

More from Mike:

On the Rice tourney: "I didn't think we played great overall. In the first (win over Lamar) and the third (win over over SW MO) I thought we were OK. We didn't play well against Rice, and that's too bad because Rice didn't play well either. We should have won the game even as badly as we played."

On some of the weekend's highlights and lowlights:

"Offensively we were not at our best. Sunday (15 hits, 6 runs) was our best day offensively. It would have been nice to push more than six runs across. Brian Pettway had a great weekend offensively and had some great at-bats. Mark Wright was 4-for-5 at the plate (against Southwest Missouri) and was robbed on the other one. Jon-Jon Hancock had a good day Friday and a good day Sunday but didn't play Saturday. Sunday he had a monster home run."

On the pitching: "Mark Holliman (against Lamar) was not real sharp. He threw hard but he had five walks. The positive thing was that he hung in there and was able to get the win. Saturday Stephen Head was OK. He walked three guys but competed really hard. Sunday Anthony Cupps was really good. Southwest Missouri is a pesky team. Cupps hit 96 on the gun and averaged 91. That's big league. He had a good day but Southwest Missouri made him work. I thought after only four days' rest Cupps did well. He should have been the SEC Pitcher of the week, in my opinion (including a win over Arkansas State to open the season along with the SW MO performance).

Other pitching comments: "Tommy Baumgardner (junior newcomer LHP) did a good job (against SW MO) as did Brian Pettway, who was very dominant. He averaged like 91. And Matt Maloney was obviously awesome."

A Rice wrapup: "Two big things stand out to me. We've got to be a little stingier on the defensive side. We have to play a cleaner game. We're fielding .972 and our ERA is under 3 as a team, so that's not bad. And we gave up too many opportunities to score runs. When we get guys in scoring position, we just haven't gotten them home like we should. We need to get the big hit then and we didn't a lot of the time."

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